It is the smallest of the four lakes in the Lombardy region and is usually overshadowed by its larger and more famous “sisters” Como, Garda and Maggiore. In September 2021, I was in the area on another solo trip to Bergamo, so after a visit to neighboring Brescia, I hopped on the train and spent a day (alone😅) at the romantic Lake Iseo in Lombardy.
Before reading on, take a look at my articles on Bergamo and Brescia:
How to get to Lake Iseo
Lake Iseo is divided between Bergamo and Brescia and is one of the most charming lakes in Lombardy. Despite being much smaller than some of the others in the area, Lake Iseo offers much more to the visitor than beauty and charm. Surrounded by the Lombard Alps, with its scattered villages waiting for you for excellent Italian food and breathtaking views, it offers a different quality and tranquility.
The easiest way to get to the lake is clearly by car. Bergamo’s Orio Al Serio airport is only an hour away from the lake, so yey!
If this is not an option for you, then I suggest you do exactly what I did. I took a train from Bergamo to Brescia and from there I took another train to Iseo, and got off at the beautiful little village of Sulzano. The route lasts about 30 minutes and is really enjoyable because a large part of it takes place along the lake and the views offered to you are unique.
Other villages you can explore are Iseo, Sarnico, Lovere, Pisogne, Peschiera Maraglio, which is located on a small island (piece of mountain) in the middle of the lake. Because as if the beauty of the place wasn’t enough, the lake also has a small island in its center, Monte Isola, which you can reach with a small boat and eat as many sardines as you can handle.
Let’s take it from the beginning tho, shall we?
Getting off at Sulzano, one of the most picturesque train stations I’ve ever been to, I walked through the town’s truly beautiful narrow streets. In 2016, Sulzano attracted the attention of the public with the “Floating Piers” – the floating docks, the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, where with a special installation, they “united” Sulzano with Monte Isola and the islet of Sao Paolo.
The installation consisted of 100,000 square meters of yellow fabric supported by a floating, modular dock system. It was located just above the surface of the water and moved according to the currents of the lake, giving people the feeling of walking on water.
For those who were at that time in the area, it must have been a unique image, I – several years later – will content myself with the inscription below.
Getting to Sulzano
Walking in Sulzano, I felt that familiar Italian energy that I never get to feel in the big cities of Italy. Cute narrow streets, colorful buildings, groups of cyclists and walkers exploring the area and smells from the restaurants. And the best part? Plenty of quiet.
The road brought me out to the small dock, where I followed the crowd that boarded the small boat bound for Monte Isola. The ticket cost only 4 euros and the ride took about ten minutes until we reached Peschiera Maraglio where all the restaurants and most of the shops overlooking the lake are located.
Wandering around the island
Peschiera Maraglio is usually the starting point for exploring the island. Following the coastal road clockwise, a walk through the olive groves reaches Sensole, then the road steepens and leads to the town of Menzino, where the Rocca Oldofredi-Martinengo stands imposingly. Continuing north (if you feel like walking) you can reach Siviano, the capital of the island, a fortified settlement of the Middle Ages, with tower houses and narrow streets. From there, a descent leads to Carzano, from where you can see the island of Loreto. After resuming the coastal road, the route ends returning to Peschiera Maraglio (approx. 9 km – Total time 2h30)
The dried Monte Isola sardine has over time acquired its own, very strong identity, to the point of becoming one of the most well-known typical products of Lake Iseo. You will see her everywhere!
Strongly flavored, dry sardine is heated in a pan or grilled, seasoned with oil, parsley and garlic and usually served with polenta.
Have a great time!